House History then and now for two former ‘old age homes’:
136 Eastern Avenue (Rt 127) 1911 and today- was a retirement home for fishermen
1911, Gloucester, Mass. “WILL OPEN ON CHRISTMAS DAY Several Old Sea Toilers Will Eat Christmas Dinner There Monday: Everything is in readiness for the opening of the Fishermen’s Home, formerly the Colby House, on Eastern avenue, and on Christmas day, a gathering of aged and disabled fishermen who have toiled their best days on the banks, but are no longer able to follow this hazardous occupation, will spend one of the happiest days of their lives and eat their first dinner in the new home…It would be a rather difficult undertaking to find a happier man today than Judge York. Two years ago after a conference with Dr. John Dixwell of Boston, who becoming interested in the work raised a fund among his friends for the relief of this class of men, who without friends or home were obliged to seek shelter in the house of coreection. Judge York went to Ipswich and secured the release of eight old fishermen, who were brought to this city and cared for at boarding houses during the winter months. Last winter the work was continued through the efforts of Dr. Dixwell and Judge York, and lately, their efforts were further crowned by the splendid gift of Mr. Hammond, who presented the home. The seven men who will become inmates of the home on Christmas Day are John Ryan, Joseph Alcott, John Nichools, Harris Atwood, James Halley, Robert Fraser and Henry Gormley.” article in the Gloucester Daily Times
The prior year “J. Hammond deeded lots for indigent fishermen at Beechbrook Cemetery.”- 1910 Gloucester Archives
After writing about his friendship with Captain Blackburn, “one of the most undaunted sailors America has ever had…I was proud to be one of the honorary pallbearers at his funeral…” John Hammond Sr. concluded his autobiography with more about Gloucester:
“I look back with the greatest pleasure on the hours I have spent with other old Gloucester fishermen. In the winter of 1910 several of these old fellow appeared before the district court and pleaded guilty to vagrancy. Without other means of gaining food or shelter, they were seeking some sort of sustenance in the poorhouse for the winter. In Washington, I read about this in the papers and got in touch with Judge York, Dr. Dickswell, Fred Shackelford, and others who were interested. We established a home to provide for these old fishermen. I learned to appreciate the fine traits of these men who were given refuge there. Often it was exceedingly difficult to persuade them that they were too old to stand the hardships of deep-sea fishing. Their truck garden faced the sea, and from there they could watch with their telescopes for the fishing vessels as they left and entered the harbor. Sailors, like miners, are notoriously spendthrifts and these of Gloucester were no exception. They would arrive at the Home in a destitute condition. Because they no longer went to sea, and there was no chance of their reaching the traditional sailors’ grave, they had a great dread of potter’s field. For that reason I provided a cemetery where all could be assured of decent burial. Above the gate is inscribed:
And here rest, brave toiler of the sea,
God’s peace be with thee.
Many of the inmates were choosey about the location of their graves. There were two in particular, bunkies since boyhood, who quarreled daily and, I fear, nightly, but who exacted from me a promise that they might be buried side by side.”
110 Prospect Street ca 1900 and today – was a former retirement home for senior women
Gloucester bought 110 Prospect Street in 1887 for $12,000 to establish the “Huntress Home for Old Ladies of Native Birth.” I’ll write more about this one later.
Here’s how both senior housing options were described in the 1913 Gloucester Directory (from Gloucester Archives):